How to Justify Buying More Art Supplies

Treat Yo’Self, My Little Mess Maker

In 2013, I worked as a cashier at a craft store in Minnesota. I learned a lot of valuable lessons while working there. Like, Christmas decoration glitter will stick to you and everything you own months after the season ends, and there is no limit to how many pieces of scrapbook paper someone can buy in one shopping trip, but there is a limit to how many individual pieces I am willing to scan into the register before I go insane.

I ran into all kinds of creative people there. The dabblers who saw something on Pinterest and just had to give it a go. The die-hards who owned every color of Copic marker and had a dedicated craft room in their house. And the traditional artists who were willing to eat the high mark-up on art supplies to save themselves from driving 50 miles to the nearest dedicated art store.

Every creator had a different story, but one thing they all had in common was they had to go through the mental justification required to be standing at the register with a bunch of supplies convinced it’s okay to spend money on their creativity. You may be working your way through that justification process right now. I’m here to help! For the most part…

Should you buy new art supplies?

I don’t know your life. I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but I can share everything I think about before I click “Submit Order” on my Blick shopping cart.

First, do you have money to spend and are all of your bills paid?

No? Don’t buy new art supplies. Debt isn’t fun.

Obviously this is the first thing to consider. Don’t let yourself be a starving and stressed artist. Pay your electric bill and fill your refrigerator before you splurge on new supplies. (While you search for funds, you can use unconventional/found objects to make art! Consider it a fun challenge!)

But, if the answer is yes…

Cool! Now you can buy supplies!

Though, since you’re here you probably need a little more encouragement to spend money. Let’s consider a few other factors that help justify buying new supplies.

1. Do you let yourself have fun?

I like to think of art supplies as entertainment and self-care. How often do you go to the movies? Or out for dinner? How often do you treat yourself to clothes, fancy coffee, or new shoes? A new paint brush set can bring you more entertainment than a movie. New paints can be enjoyed longer than than a night out.

If you want new art supplies, but feel guilty then make a trade for another mode of entertainment. And if you don’t even treat yo’self enough to make the trade in the first place, then you definitely should buy those art supplies. Enjoy life!

2. Are you in a creative rut?

Sometimes we get bored with the same old supplies and our creativity begins to wane. If you are itching to buy new supplies because you’re uninspired with what you currently have, then buying a new type of paint to play with or a fun new tool might be the catalyst you need to dig out of a rut.

I say, follow your creative urges if you have the financial means to do it.

3. Is anyone else stopping you?

When I worked at the craft store, hunting opener weekend was huge. Shoppers would use the crazy amount of money their partner spent on hunting gear to justify the crazy amount of money they allowed themselves to spend on crafting supplies. It was a fair trade. Hobby for hobby.

When we share our finances with a partner or family members, our spending habits become their business. So, if you are getting pressure to spend less on supplies from an outside source, make sure to listen to their concerns and work to find a middle ground.

4. Are you selling your work?

You don’t have to monetize your hobby, but selling a piece here and there or doing weekend craft/art fairs for fun can help your hobby pay for itself.
Before I was a full-time artist, I allowed myself to spend everything I made (minus taxes) from my art. If I sold a piece, that gave me permission to buy more supplies. It’s pretty easy to justify buying new supplies when you make the money back eventually.

And if you are running a full-time art business, then your art supply shopping trips just become inventory restocking. Most of the time, I don’t want to buy new supplies, but I run out of paint and canvases and can’t make more art without placing an order.

5. Are you hunting for the best deals?

I’ve always been a frugal person, so I have a hard time stomaching the high prices of some art supplies. In order to make myself feel better about spending money, I have three rules I follow:

Always use coupons: Big craft stores give out coupons all the time. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and JoAnn Fabric almost always have something on their site. Never shop without first finding a coupon. Sign up for all the newsletters so you can get coupons emailed to you.

Only shop during sales: I never buy canvases at list price. Ever. A little bit of patience goes a long way when you can wait for the big sales at each store. Back to school time is my favorite at Blick, and Michaels frequently runs specials on fine art supplies and canvases.

Don’t be seduced by “Professional” supplies: “Professional” art supplies do not make you a professional artist. And cheaper art supplies do not prevent you from making high quality art. Yes, some supplies are really crappy and you get what you pay for, but the middle road materials can be great. Those Copic markers I mentioned before are listed at $8 a piece, but you can find multiple brands of alcohol based markers that are similar and much cheaper.

6. Do you actually NEED new supplies?

Okay, now for a little discouragement.

I’ve found myself staring at my supplies in the past and just felt bored. I had plenty of stuff to play with, but I wanted new things. Sometimes this is a creative rut, but sometimes it’s just laziness.

Part of the fun of being a creative person is that you can find ways to stretch your current supplies and create with what you have. If you are feeling uninspired and don’t really want to spend money, then turn to the internet. Try searching for fun ways to work with whatever supplies you have on hand. Google different art prompts. Try exploring nature and make art from unconventional materials (Like leaves or coffee!).

We don’t always need new supplies. You might just have to look at your current supplies in a new way.

***

It’s easy to spend a lot of money really quickly while buying art supplies. It’s good to practice self control (especially if you are a compulsive shopper, or having hoarding tendencies), but I rarely regret buying art supplies. I may regret dropping $80 on dinner and drinks when I could have made something cheaper and healthier at home, but my new watercolor brush brings me joy every time I load it up with watercolors.

So, I say spoil yourself and buy some new supplies. Put your energy and resources into the areas of your life that bring you joy. But, if you are financially not able to splurge, that doesn’t mean you can’t create.

I want to give a big thanks to @janettelevota for suggesting this blog topic! If you ever have ideas for a new post, please send them my way!

Leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Are You Waiting for Permission to be an Artist?


This might seem like a weird question, but let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about excuses artists make to avoid creating, and the first excuse *spoiler alert* was “I’m not an artist.” I wanted to expand on this excuse a little further, because I think it’s a huge obstacle for a lot of artists, and aspiring artists.

Right now, you might look at my website, social media accounts, and online store and think “Yeah, she’s clearly an artist,” but it took a lot of internal convincing that I had the authority to wander down this path. It might seem obvious now that I can and should be an artist, but few of us start out that way.

I’ve struggled with allowing myself to be an artist in the past, and I’ve witnessed this struggle with so many other artists.

I taught an art class for senior citizens 7 years ago, and watched a few of my students stare at the art supplies I laid out and declare they couldn’t make art. They weren’t artists in their eyes and this prevented them even attempting to create. Thankfully, they listened to my encouragement and after a few weeks they were able to stare at their own creations hanging on the walls. They were happily wrong in their initial assessment.

When we wait for permission to be an artist, we then wait for permission to even make art at all. My students were in their 70s and 80s, and were finally believing in their own ability to create. So think about my question again. Are you waiting for permission to be an artist? How long will you keep yourself from doing art?

It’s time to stop waiting and give yourself permission right now. You are the only person that gets to decide if you should make art, but I will very enthusiastically say right now that you CAN make art. Since you might not believe that right away, let’s go over a few reasons why anyone, at any level, at any point in their life can be an artist.

1. You don’t have to be good At It.

A lot of people think that you can only be an artist if you are good at art. I mean, you should only be a doctor if you study and pass all of your exams and prove you know what you’re doing, so naturally you should only be an artist if you prove your knowledge and skill in a similar fashion. Right?

Nope. Art is one of those things where anything goes. You don’t need to prove you are good at it. There really is no such thing as ‘good’ art, you don’t need to have technical skill, and you don’t need to pass a test to get certified that you are ‘good’ at art. You can make art right now and be an artist no matter your background or skill level.

Toddlers do it all the time. Take after them!

2. You don’t need others to Approve of your art.

Everyone has their own taste in art. One person may absolutely love the art you make (keep them in your life!), but others may hate your art. If the first person you show you work to happens to be a hater, it’s possible you could decide to never do art again. I’ve heard stories like this.

You do not need anyone to tell you if you should continue creating. Only your opinion matters. If you like your art, then make more. If you don’t like it, then try other things or practice more often. But, make a promise to yourself right now that if creating brings you joy you will continue to do it regardless of how others feel about your work.

3. You don’t have to sell your work.

Claiming the title of “Artist” does not mean that you need to be a professional and make it into a career. You do not need to make sales in order to prove you are an artist. You can keep your work to yourself. You can give it away as gifts. You can practice your artistry for pure enjoyment.

You are an artist well before your first work of art is even completed. Making or not making a sale does not define your identity.

4. You don’t have to go to school for art.

Like I said before, you don’t need any sort of proof that you can practice art. That means art school is 100% optional in your journey as an artist. The best source of education when it comes to making art is to just get your hands on the supplies.

No person can teach you how a brush feels when it spreads paint across a canvas. Someone can describe it to you of course, but experience is the best teacher. When I scroll through Instagram and look at other artist’s work, the last thing I’m thinking about is what art degree they have. My first thought is “how long did they have to practice to develop these skills?”

5. Your art doesn’t have to Have a Message.

When I was in art school, I felt like I wasn’t an artist because I didn’t have a desire to make a statement with my art. I wanted to make beautiful things. I didn’t want to disturb my audience. I didn’t want to create social commentary. I didn’t have a message that was accepted by the community I was in. Thus, I felt like an outsider.

You will encounter differing opinions all along your journey, but your art only needs to speak to you. And it doesn’t even have to say anything in particular.

6. Your art doesn’t need to follow any rules.

Seriously. You don’t need to adhere to any set of rules out there. Every area of the art world has its own guidelines for how to thrive in that space, but following them is optional.

Honestly, I find it’s too exhausting to try to conform. It’s easier to make up my own rules and just do my own thing. If the rules of others prevent you from making art, then ignore what you’ve learned and pave your own artistic path. Boldly be you and make the art that you crave to see. You just might pioneer a new genre of art or a new space to thrive in.

***

Now, if you read all of the points above–what’s stopping you from creating or calling yourself an artist? You have the freedom and the authority to make any kind of art you want to right now. You don’t need my permission, but you get my encouragement.

Go make art, and give yourself permission to be the artist you want to be.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

5 Excuses Artists Make to Avoid Creating

Are you making them right now?

Making art can be one of the most fulfilling ways to spend your time. For me, creating gives me peace, a sense of accomplishment, access to a flow state of being, and a fun way to make a mess. Though, it can also bring with it loads of frustration and struggle, because it’s not always easy to bring our artistic visions to life.

This is why it can be really tempting at times to make excuses to not create art, which then saves us from the pain of creating. Have you been there?

I know I have.

I have walked away from my art numerous times. I’ve made a lot of excuses over the years, but here are 5 excuses I, and many other artists, have used to walk away from creating. None of these are viable excuses, and after reading this I encourage you to stop yourself from using them in the future.

1. “I’m not an artist.”

I vividly remember sitting down with one of my English professors in 2012, and telling him “I’m not an artist” when he asked me to create work for a new textbook he was writing for the English department.

I wanted to make art. I loved to create. I took a crap ton of art classes in high school and college, and yet the little voice in my head kept saying “You’re not an artist.” Why? Because making art is fricken hard and failure in many forms is inevitable. I was terrified the work I produced would suck, so I made an excuse to get out of it.

You can’t let “I’m not an artist” be your excuse to walk away from creating, because that title belongs to anyone who creates. It’s not bestowed upon you by a school, an expert, an employer, or your mom. If you make art (any and all definitions of it), you’re an artist. Even if you just make art for fun, you’re an artist. So cross that excuse off your list.

2. “I’m not good at Art.”

I tried playing Dance Dance Revolution for the first time at an arcade a few weeks ago, and wow was I bad at that. Does that mean I’m bad at dancing? I mean–maybe. Does that mean I should never ever try it again, because since I sucked at it the first time I’m always going to suck? Absolutely not!

You can suck at something, but love the process so much that it doesn’t matter. You can also suck at something right now, and become a master of that same something in the future, because you keep powering through painful practice sessions. You have to give yourself the opportunity to grow. I know it feels unpleasant, but even if what you make is hideous and technically terrible right now, it’s not a good excuse to stop yourself from creating. It’s actually the perfect reason to create more.

Who cares if you are good or bad at art. Make art anyway.

3. “I won’t succeed.”

I have said this to myself too many times to count. I’d think about a cool image I wanted to create, and then I’d start evaluating the point of even trying to make to create it when I’d remember there’s a possibility of failing. What if it’s ugly? What if nobody likes it? I deprived myself of valuable experiences thanks to the mere thought of the end result not being what I wanted.

Maybe it never turns into a career. Maybe you don’t make money or win awards. Maybe nobody wants to buy it. Maybe a whole bunch of things, but how will you know if you don’t try? How will you see your own potential if you don’t show up and do the work? How will you push your limits if you don’t find out where they are in the first place?

This is an excuse that I know a lot of us use to prevent ourselves from creating. What’s the point, right? If I’m going to fail, why not avoid that potential failure by not even starting the project? Easy, right?! Except when you finally see that the end result doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that you have a creative vision, and you must try to bring it to life.

4. “There are more talented creators out there.”

Yeah, so?

There will always be artists with more skill or success than you, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it into a competition. You do not need to measure your worth against another artist. There will always be room for your art in the world. We are all using the same tools and being inspired by the same subjects and experiences, yet we all have a voice to add to the conversation.

Do your thing. There isn’t another you out there.

5. “I don’t have The Right Supplies.”

Art supplies can be ridiculously expensive. I get that money can limit us sometimes. And when companies use labels like “academic”, “student grade”, “intermediate”, and “professional” it’s no surprise that a lot of artists have it in their heads that you need the good stuff in order to make good art. Well, I’m here to say this isn’t true and not having the “right” supplies shouldn’t prevent you from creating.

You can make high quality art with cheap supplies. Go ahead and look at the top posts using #ballpointpendrawing on Insta. The right supplies are just supplies that can be used to make art. That can literally be anything around you. I’m not saying the good stuff isn’t worth investing in down the road, but I am saying that you can substitute a functionally equivalent product with a much cheaper price right now to get started.

So go get yourself a cheap back of Bic pens and any surface to create on. Cardboard, printer paper, old book pages. Or make collages out of junk mail. Find objects on the street and make sculptures. Your creativity is limitless. The world is full of supplies.

***

Creating art is a wonderful activity, but it’s not always easy. I hope this post has helped give you a bit of encouragement to push through! With anything in life, we are tempted to make excuses to avoid unpleasant work while also sacrificing the benefits that come with it. So what do you think? Have you used any of these excuses before? Or do you have excuses of your own?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: